Sermon audio here.
When Christ commands us to love one another, He’s talking about a burdensome love, the kind of love that’s willing to take a bullet—or even suffer crucifixion—for another.
Christ suffered the most agonizing form of torture known to man. Prior to crucifixion, the Romans would beat the accused within an inch of their life. They’d found that sweet spot where they could maximize pain and bring you to the point of death without actually killing you. Only then would they impale the condemned to a wooden plank and permit them to slowly asphyxiate.
The physical suffering Jesus endured wasn’t even the worst part. He literally suffered the torments of hell when He was forsaken by God. That’s hell, and a thousand crucifixions is nothing compared to the agony of being separated from God for even a second.
In this we see how burdensome Christian love is to the sinful flesh. For Jesus, love isn’t about good feelings or self-gratification, but about suffering profound physical and spiritual pain for those who repaid His goodness with evil. If you aren’t willing to suffer that profoundly for the good of your enemies, repent, for your love has fallen short of Christ’s. Jesus calls you to love others just as He has loved you.
It’s terrifying to consider how far short our love has fallen of Christ’s because this is evidence of unbelief. Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. We’re not interested in helping our enemies, much less suffering for them. The only suffering we like to see is that of our enemies.
You all probably know I’m a Blues fan. And after they lost to the Sharks (I’m still not over it), I said, that’s okay. It’ll make it that much more painful for the Sharks when they lose in the Stanley Cup Final. That’s not a nice thing to think. But that’s the point: we don’t think nice things—especially about our enemies.
But this isn’t just a matter of wishing (or even doing) harm to someone. It’s failing to help them when you have the chance. We should fear and love God so that we help and support our neighbor, even our enemy, in every physical need. When good things happen to someone else, we should be happy for them.
We’re not so different from the rich man. We may not live in a mansion,[i] wear the most expensive clothes, or feast sumptuously every day, but there are plenty of Lazaruses in our lives to whose suffering we turn a blind eye.
That’s what the rich man did, and he ended up in hell. The text says nothing of his faith or unbelief—not explicitly—but it didn’t have to. He demonstrated his unbelief by his lack of love. We have no indication that the rich man wished Lazarus harm. For all we know, he didn’t even know Lazarus existed, despite the fact that he was laying there in misery right outside his gate.
The rich man was too preoccupied with himself to notice or help Lazarus. He was so in love with himself that he had no love left for Christ, much less Lazarus. His highest good was his own satisfaction. He was his own god.
The rich man didn’t love Lazarus because of his greed. Greed is a particularly dangerous sin. It always demands more and will only be satisfied with the destruction of your body and soul in hell.
On the surface, if you were asked which of the two men were sick, the rich man or Lazarus, you probably would have said it was Lazarus—the poor, starving guy who was covered with sores. His only ointment was the saliva of dogs as they came by to lick his wounds. Lazarus was indeed ill, both physically and spiritually.
But the rich man, who probably felt great, was also desperately ill. This was evident in the fact that they both died, as will we. This is because of what we share with these men, that dreadful, hereditary sickness by which the entire human nature is corrupted. The tricky thing is that being selfish or greedy usually doesn’t feel bad—at least not at the time. It certainly didn’t for the rich man. The sort of love Christ demands, on the other hand, is an intolerable burden for our sinful flesh.
It’s a good thing that Christ shows love to the loveless. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is seen in that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich,” (2 Cor 8:9). Christ has borne the burden of His love for you on the cross. Everything He demands, He Himself provides.
And unlike greed, Jesus is a God that satisfies. He provides everything you need and more. He continues to call you away from selfishness and greed. He bears with you in your weakness and fills you with His own love that you might be more like Him.
He does this especially in the Lord’s Supper. The most extravagant feast in the world is nothing by comparison. Here’s a feast that’s celebrated with the priceless body and blood of Christ, a feast which imparts the riches of His grace to the poorest of sinners.
Christ has called you to flee from greed and to His Table. He has bought you not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. The most priceless gift in the world, His Body and Blood, He gives freely to you here.
True wealth is found in Christ alone. For your sake became poor so that you might be rich toward God and those around you. He gives you His body and blood so that your life might not be about yourself, but about faith in God and fervent love toward one another.
[i] Assuming he did. Scripture doesn’t say much about where he lived (he did have a gate), but the idea of that a rich person would live in a mansion isn’t such a far-fetched one.
Soli Deo Gloria